The debate on Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in Nagaland has been muted to some extent due to the assurance by Union home minister Amit Shah that the Nagaland state will be excluded from the purview of the contentious law. In a tweet on December 10, 2019, Nagaland deputy chief minister Y Patton had asserted that Nagaland “remains protected from any fallout of CAB and Article 371.”
While nearby Assam rages on with the issue on ‘Miyah poems’, there is a new salvo being fired on the ‘Miyas’ by Patton, the BJP legislature party leader of Nagaland. He specifically mentioned that he was referring to the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants when he said ‘Miya’.
An old controversy was stoked by the deputy chief minister while addressing the gathering at the conference of the Lotha Students’ Union, Wokha at Maratchu village (also known as Merapani).
In his speech, (an audio recording and transcript of which is freely available and circulating on social media), he referred to the Lothas of Ralan sub-division as “Miya Jat” and therefore “dalals”. The reason he gave was primarily political. However, the inference has not been the same.
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Firstly, Patton also belongs to the Lotha tribe as much as the people of Ralan sub-division. Secondly, as a sitting MLA of the Congress party in 2003, he had accompanied Dr S C Jamir, the then Nagaland chief minister, to Bhandari for the assembly election campaign. In his speech, it was apparent that he had nursed the grudge of getting lesser votes from Ralan area during the elections which led him to lose the elections in 2003.
In the month of April 2002, Dr Jamir, the then Nagaland CM, denied press reports that a new tribe ‘Sumiya’ has emerged in the state following infiltration from Bangladesh. He clarified that “it is unethical on the part of journalists to put their words into my mouth. I have never said anything about the new tribe or tribes emerging in Nagaland”.
In a strange twist of definition, the term “Miya Jat”, as he used it, was meant to connote a derogatory category. In fact it is both racist and ironical.
According to experienced observers, for a people who have been recognised by the government of India as having a “unique history”, calling people from his own tribe “Miya Jat” amounts to undermining that recognition for the Nagas.
The debate over the CAA has definitely transformed the political positions of some MLAs in Nagaland. However, using the term “Miya” to denigrate and besmirch people definitely exposes a “stained Nazi and Hitlerite mentality” and the strange appropriation of such words is definitely taking the political discourse to a very low ebb.
(The author is a political analyst . Views expressed are his own)